After the longest winter in the history of mankind (or maybe that’s just me), spring is finally here! And that means it’s time to get out the hiking boots, fill up the eco-friendly water bottles and hit the trails. Fortunately in Virginia, there’s no shortage of options for everyone from the super-fit to the family. Whether you’re a serious hiker who thinks nothing of keeping your food in bear bags or you’re leaving a Hansel and Gretel-like trail of Skittles to entice your kiddies to the top, the following 16 sites will be sure to amaze you like only Virginia can.
16. Tinker Cliffs, Botetourt County, Virginia
Made of 250 million-year-old limestone, Tinker Cliffs offer a steep trail guaranteed to make you feel the burn, but a view that makes it all worth while. Besides, with sites like "Scorched Earth Gap" and the "Murder Hole Cave" along the trail, how can you resist?
15. Mary’s Rock, Sperryville, Virginia
As with many of Virginia’s more popular trails, Mary’s Rock is part of the larger Appalachian Trail and delivers spectacular views. Legend has it that a young girl named Mary climbed the rock and returned with two bear cubs, thus giving the peak its name.
14. Compton Peak, Bentonville, Virginia
An easy hike to the top of Compton Peak, just off of Skyline Drive, yields incredible views and offers fun for every skill level.
13. Cascades, Giles County, Virginia
A personal favorite of mine, the Cascades hike is a beautiful meander up the mountainside, with just enough bridges and artfully constructed stone steps to make it kid-friendly. With a stunning waterfall and swimming hole at trail’s end, the Cascades is near hiking perfection.
12. Barney’s Wall, Giles County, Virginia
And now for you braver folk, Barney’s Wall awaits just a few miles past the Cascades. Enjoy stunning views of the New River Valley, or if you really want to get crazy, stand on the edge of the sheer rock cliff and look down. I dare you.
11. Spy Rock, Nelson County, Virginia
Not the longest hike on my list, but a healthy climb all the same, the Spy Rock trek leads you through 1.5 miles of wooded paths and sheer rock face to the gorgeous granite dome that gave this site its name. From here, you will witness one of the most amazing 360 degree views in Virginia.
10. Crab Tree Falls, Nelson County, Virginia
Once you’ve taken on Spy Rock, carry on a few more miles to Crabtree Falls, the highest falls east of the Mississippi, for more of Virginia nature at its best. Or, start from the Crabtree Falls Parking Area to go directly to the falls – but be sure to enjoy the caves, scenic bridges and incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the way.
9. Molly’s Knob (Hungry Mother State Park), Marion, Virginia
vastateparksstaff / flickr
Located in Hungry Mother State Park, Molly’s Knob is a beautiful hike with lake views and lush foliage. The peak got is name from a legend that a young girl and her mother were the only survivors of a Native American raid. After escaping, the mother collapsed by a stream. The child went for help, but could only say, “Hungry Mother.” When the child returned with aid, the mother, Molly, had died. The creek was named Hungry Mother Creek and the overlooking peak, Molly’s Knob.
8. Peaks of Otter, Bedford, Virginia
Consisting of three main peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sharp Top, Flat Top and Harkening Hill, the Peaks of Otter offer something for every level of skill and interest. With a beautiful manmade lake nestled in the valley between the peaks, lodges, campgrounds and activities are plenty. This is the perfect place for families and serious hikers alike.
7. High Bridge Trail, Farmville (and surrounding areas), Virginia
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation / flickr
Sometimes a “hike” doesn’t have to be scrambling up a 700-foot rock wall. Sometimes a hike is just getting out and enjoying the beauty of Virginia. With 31 miles of trail through Southside Virginia countryside, High Bridge is popular for walkers, joggers and bikers – you may even see some folks on horseback. Take the kids or just take a stroll and enjoy the views atop the 2,400 foot-span bridge standing 160 feet over the Appamattox River.
6. Dragon’s Tooth, Catawba, Virginia
Named for the sharp rock that juts out from its peak, Dragon’s Tooth is another tough hike, but one that does not fail in beauty – or popularity. Work your way through the “Dragon’s Spine” to find panoramic valley views at the peak.
5. Hawksbill Mountain, Madison/Page County, Virginia
Lauren Parnell Marino / flickr
The highest peak in the Shenandoah National Park, Hawksbill is a milder hike to yet another amazing peak. Be sure to keep your camera at the ready, because Hawksbill is also home to many birds of prey and a peregrine falcon rehabilitation center, dedicated to reintroducing these magnificent birds to the area.
4. Humpback Rock, Afton, Virginia
Humpback Rock delivers everything you’ve come to expect from hiking in Virignia – breathtaking views, beautiful trails and stunning foliage, but another draw for this particular site is an outdoor museum at the trail’s head representing Appalachian culture at the turn of the century. Come for a hardcore hike or come for the history, either way, you’ll get everything you want from this amazing site.
3. Old Rag Mountain, Madison County, Virginia
With 8+ miles up steep trails and more than one rock scramble, Old Rag is not for the faint of heart – or the weak of knees. Often referred to as the most popular hike in the Shenandoah, it’s also one of the most dangerous. But don’t let that stop you, because like most things in life, the effort is well worth it once you’re standing on top of the world.
2. Mount Rogers, Grayson/Smyth County, Virginia
Best known as the highest natural peak in the state of Virginia, Mount Rogers measures in at an impressive 5,729 feet above sea level. But the coolest part? If you get lucky, you might just see the wild highland ponies ponies that live in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. That’s second only to seeing unicorns in a Rainbow Forest in my humble opinion.
1. McAfee Knob, Roanoke County, Virginia
Some places were just meant to be photographed and McAfee’s Knob is no exception. One of the finest hikes on the entire Appalachian Trail, if the 4.5 mile McAfee’s Knob trail doesn’t taken your breath away, the views most definitely will. At the summit, you’ll see Catawba Valley, North Mountain, Tinker Cliffs and the Roanoke Valley wrapped around you from west to east. That’s a workout worth the reward.
It may seem impossible to see all of the incredible hikes, treks and trails available in Virginia’s great outdoors, but there’s no time like the present to start trying and no better place to start than these 16 awe-inspiring spots. Whether it’s a weekend on the trails, a day out with friends and family or just experiencing Virginia’s majestic beauty on your own, it’s time to get your hiking shoes on and your walking stick out, because there’s a whole lot of amazing out there, just waiting to be discovered.
Be sure to let us know some of your favorite Virginia hikes in the comments below!